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How to Restore Vintage Ford 4 Speed Shifter Knobs

How to Restore Vintage Ford 4 Speed Shifter Knobs

Restoring Vintage Ford 4 speed shifter knobs is a fairly simple project. To make the job easier you will need a drill press, 1/2-20 tap, varies grits of sandpaper, rubbing compound. Other supplies you will need are Armor All, Mink Oil and White Appliance Touch-Up Paint.

To get started you will need to check the condition of the knob, some of these knobs are old and have taken some abuse over the years and unfortunately some are not restartable. What you want to look for in the knob is the shift pattern, determine if the numbers and shift pattern lines are in good shape with deep stamped lines and numbers. If they do not look good it will be tough to get a clean look when the project is finished because you have sandpaper the knob slightly to bring out a fresh look and if you go to far in the sanding process you sand them out.

After you have determined you have good restore able knob clean it with carburetor cleaner and wire brush the paint out of the shift pattern and numbers. Install the knob on the 1/2-20 tap and insert the tap in the drill press. Turn the drill press on and start with 100 grit sandpaper first, if you have a Mustang or Galaxie shift knob with a concave top start your sanding on the sides of the knob first. Sand out any chips or scratches then move to and finer grit sandpaper like 150 fine and finish with a fine crocus paper. Do the same for the concave area but start with 150 fine paper using you finger to apply pressure. Be careful here not to go to hard this, take your time to smooth out. Also as you are sanding the paper can get hot so be careful, I don’t recommend wear gloves because they can get caught in the drill press.

After the sanding check out the knob, make sure it is free of chips and scratches, if it is leave it in the drill press and use some rubbing compound to smooth it out even more. I use three types of compound the first is a heavy duty cleaner and then polishing compound and finish with a clear plastic cleaner and polish and finally buff with a clean rag. Each compound may need to applied for a couple of minutes to bring out a smooth clean look be careful in this process with the rags because they can get caught up in the drill press.

Clean the knob, take a small dental type tool to get the rubbing compound out of the shift pattern and you will be ready to paint the pattern and numbers. Use the white appliance touch-up paint to paint in the shift pattern and numbers. You don’t have to paint just the pattern and numbers it is easier to just apply the paint on the face of the pattern. Allow to dry and take paper towel spray carburetor cleaner on it and wipe down the top of the knob until the extra paint come off and your shift pattern and numbers are clean and white.

The paint may smear on the knob so just clean to off with the carburetor cleaner. Then take Armor All spray some on a paper towel and wipe it on the knob to bring out the black color. The last step is to apply some mint oil and rub down the knob to bring out the luster. If all goes well you will have a beautifully restored knob in about 15 to 30 minutes. I have done many of these restoration for resale and they have come out very nice what I think makes it easy to do is material the knobs are made up which is bakelite you can sand this stuff and get the knobs pretty clean and looking good.

This process works well with Ford shifter knobs for 1964 1/2 -66 small concave for Mustangs and 1962-67 Galaxie and early Falcons and Fairlane etc. and the 1967-68 and 69 standard interior Mustang. All other knobs like the wood grain for a deluxe interior Mustang is not good for restoring if you have a good original keep it or get a good quality reproduction.